A quick note about budget cuts

I get whipped up into a righteous anger over all of the reports indicating that "We could save the NEA with the money we spend to guard Melania Trump in Trump Tower (possibly true)" or "If the President would cut down on his golf, we could save Meals on Wheels. (likely true)."  There are more examples out there, but you know the kind of report I'm talking about: The ones that demonstrate that many popular federal programs are a drop in the bucket with respect to the federal budget and could easily be funded if we just cut a little here (the military) or there (presidential perks). 

While the reports are, in theory, correct from a numbers standpoint, they miss the point. These programs would be cut even if they cost one dollar. This isn't about saving money; it's about ending programs that some legislators believe have no business being part of the federal government.  Some of them are libertarian, free-market zealots, some of them have a strict-constructionist view that the federal government should restrict itself to making treaties and defending the shores, and others are in it for, let's say, less idealistic motives.

The bottom line is the same, though: If the government is doing it, then there's no room for business to make a profit on it.  In 2005, Rick Santorum proposed a bill that would make it illegal for the National Weather Service to offer free weather reports on the principle that they prevented businesses from being able to charge for weather reports.  Here's the relevant part of the text of the bill:

Prohibits the Secretary from providing or assisting other entities in providing a product or service (other than a product or service for the preparation and issuance of severe weather forecasts and warnings as described above) that is or could be provided by the private sector...

So, the takeaway here is that cutting funding for social service, education, and the arts this isn't a war on spending or an attempt to balance the budget, even when they're advertised as such. It's an attempt to prevent the government from providing services that could prove lucrative to the private sector.  Everything else is just a smokescreen.